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2018 Colts Preseason Preview: Colts/Seahawks, Week 1

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WESTFIELD, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts (0-0) and Seattle Seahawks (0-0) kickoff their preseasons on Thursday in this West Coast matchup. Both teams have experienced vast change during the offseason as they retool their lineups. There is plenty to get excited about for Colts fans, so let’s get into it.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Thursday, Aug. 9 at 10 p.m. ET
  • Seattle; CenturyLink Field
  • TV: WXIN “FOX59” — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color) and Caroline Cann sideline) | NFL Network re-air at 4 a.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 10 — Curt Menefee (play-by-play) and Brock Huard (color)
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, check here.
  • Radio: WFNI “1070 The Fan” | WLHK “HANK FM” — Bob Lamey (play-by-play) and Jim Sorgi (color)

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Colts lead, 7-5. In the preseason, the teams are tied 9-9.
  • Last game — Week 4 of 2017. Seahawks won, 46-18.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Seahawks:

  • HC Pete Carroll
  • OC Brian Schottenheimer
  • DC Ken Norton Jr.
  • STC Brian Schneider

KEY NEW FACES

Colts:

  • RB Nyheim Hines/Jordan Wilkins
  • WR Ryan Grant/TE Eric Ebron
  • OL Quenton Nelson/Braden Smith/Matt Slauson/Austin Howard
  • DL Denico Autry
  • LB Darius Leonard/Najee Goode

Seahawks:

  • RB Rashaad Penny
  • WR Brandon Marshall/Jaron Brown
  • OL D.J. Fluker/Jamarco Jones/J.R. Sweezy
  • DL Rasheem Green
  • LB Barkevious Mingo/Shaquem Griffin

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Colts:

  • The Colts got an almost entirely new coaching staff this offseason, and general manager Chris Ballard went into his second offseason of flipping the roster.
  • With the coaching change came a switch to a 4-3, Tampa-2 style defense from the hybrid 3-4 defense. The offense should be much more exotic than in years past.
  • From 2017 to 2018, there could be as many as a dozen or more new starters.
  • With all of these changes comes fierce competition in camp for numerous open spots along the roster.

Seahawks:

  • The Seahawks should look much different this year, both coaching and player-wise. Out are Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator and Kris Richard as defensive coordinator; in are Brian Schottenheimer and Ken Norton Jr., respectively. Schottenheimer was actually the Colts' quarterbacks coach over the previous two seasons.
  • They are also without familiar faces cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor, defensive end Cliff Avril, tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, wide receiver Paul Richardson, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, running back Thomas Rawls and cornerback DeShawn Shead. Also, All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is holding out until he either gets a contract extension or is traded.

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Andrew Luck’s Return — We have seen Colts quarterback Andrew Luck look like his old self throughout training camp, but this will be the very first game he plays in since the 2016 regular season finale. The eyes of the football world will be glued to this one, if for no other reason than simply seeing him on a football field again.
  • Brand New Schemes On Both Side Of Ball For Colts — The Colts got a brand new coaching staff this offseason, bringing sweeping changes to the offense and defense. The offense will look more diverse, fast-moving and aggressive while the defense has moved to a 4-3 base with a defensive line that is tasked with causing chaos up front. The defensive backs will now be in zone coverage more than when they used to play a lot of man coverage, giving them more time to scan the offense and potentially create some interceptions.
  • Jacoby Brissett: Preseason Legend? — With Luck returning as the starting quarterback, it should afford Jacoby Brissett some more time to play during the preseason. In his last preseason game in 2017 as a member of the New England Patriots, he amassed 370 combined yards passing and rushing and scored five touchdowns against the New York Giants. The Colts have recently talked about how much they like Brissett and how he is not only a starting-caliber quarterback, but top-20 in the league. A quarterback of that caliber should be quite efficient against an opponent's reserve players.
  • Colts Running Back Rotation — The Colts have an interesting situation in their running back group. On one hand, they have a veteran in Robert Turbin who is very valuable in short-yardage situations and on third downs, but who will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season. They also have young guys like Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins that need in-game reps to help them keep growing as players. The running back rotation has been very balanced throughout camp, with everybody seemingly getting reps with each unit. How will it look Thursday?
  • Colts First-Team Offensive Line — The Colts are expected to be without their starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo, but the rest of line that starts on Thursday will have seen plenty of first-team reps in camp. No. 6 overall pick and first-team left guard Quenton Nelson will be making his NFL debut alongside center Ryan Kelly, while we may see right guard Matt Slauson and right tackle Austin Howard making their Colts debuts as well.
  • Colts Players Stepping Up On Defense — With an entirely new defensive scheme, most of the starting and rotational spots are up for grabs. Coaches have seen good things from players in practice, but they also need to see it in actual game scenarios when it counts. There are certain players who seem to just turn it on in game action. Which defensive players will step up and make a good impression on the coaches?
  • Shaquem Griffin’s Debut — The Seahawks have an exciting situation of their own. Rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin was drafted in the fifth round despite having his left hand amputated as a child. His twin brother Shaquill also plays for the Seahawks as a cornerback. Shaquem is a very talented player regardless, and it will be a feel-good moment once he gets on the field, especially if he gets to play with his brother.
  • Sebastian Janikowski In A… Seahawks Uniform? — Seahawks kicker Sebastian Janikowski had spent this entire millenium with the Oakland Raiders before being dropped this spring. Selected in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Janikowski has been a mainstay with the Raiders but now must adjust to being a Seahawk. Fans will have to adjust to the unfamiliar sight as well as Janikowski battles Jason Myers for the Seahawks' kicking job.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts TEs vs. Seahawks LBs — The tight ends are among the most impressive groups on the Colts at this moment. We see Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron and the rest of the group contribute heavily in live team drills everyday in camp. The Seahawks have some talented, athletic linebackers of their own to help cover the tight ends, though. Will we keep seeing guys like Doyle, Ebron, Erik Swoope and Ross Travis making plays against the Seahawks linebackers?
  • Colts DL vs. Seahawks OL — We mentioned the Colts’ new-look defensive line is tasked with causing havoc up front, but how will they look doing it? Defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Tarell Basham have been talked about as players who could really thrive coming out of a three-point stance, and new defensive tackle Denico Autry has been a stud in his new role with the Colts. The Seahawks’ line is a work in progress, as is the Colts. We’ve seen plenty of flash plays from Colts defensive linemen in camp thus far, so let’s hope to see more in a live game situation.
  • Colts LBs vs. Seahawks RBs C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic — In the past, Colts linebackers have struggled against multi-faceted running backs who contribute on the ground and through the air. Seahawks running backs C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic are a couple of veterans who fit the bill here. McKissic, in fact, scored twice against the Colts in their meeting last October — once on the ground and the other on a 27-yard reception. However, the emphasis on the Colts’ new linebackers is on speed and athleticism. In camp, it appears they cover running backs much better now. Let’s see how guys like Darius Leonard and Skai Moore do against these dynamic running backs.

INJURY UPDATE

Since official pregame injury reports are not required until the regular season, these are simply players who have been declared to be out indefinitely, for a period of time beyond this game or have missed a lot of practice recently.

Colts:

  • Running back Josh Ferguson, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, linebacker Anthony Walker and safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers are not expected to play.

Seahawks:

  • Wide receiver Doug Baldwin and defensive end Dion Jordan are not expected to play.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

RETURNING LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (3,098 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (358 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (966 yards)
  • Touchdowns — QB Jacoby Brissett, WR T.Y. Hilton, TE Jack Doyle (4)
  • Tackles — LB Antonio Morrison (108 total)
  • Sacks — DE Jabaal Sheard (5.5)
  • Interceptions — S Malik Hooker (3)

Seahawks:

  • Passing — QB Russell Wilson (3,983 yards)
  • Rushing — QB Russell Wilson (586 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Doug Baldwin (991 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR Doug Baldwin (8)
  • Tackles — LB Bobby Wagner (133)
  • Sacks — DE Frank Clark (9.0)
  • Interceptions — S Earl Thomas, LB Bobby Wagner, CB Justin Coleman (2)

COMPARING 2017 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 31st (284.8 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 30th (16.4 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 30th (180.8 YPG)
  • Running offense — 22nd (103.8 YPG)
  • Total defense — 30th (367.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 30th (25.2 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 28th (246.6 YPG)
  • Sacks — 31st (25)
  • Running defense — 26th (120.4 YPG)
  • Time of possession — 22nd (29:41)
  • Turnover margin — 13th (+5)

Seahawks:

  • Total offense — 15th (330.4 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 11th (22.9 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 14th (228.6 YPG)
  • Running offense — 23rd (101.8 YPG)
  • Total defense — 11th (323.2 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 13th (20.8 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 6th (209.2 YPG)
  • Sacks — 13th (39)
  • Running defense — 19th (114.0 YPG)
  • Time of possession — 24th (29:19)
  • Turnover margin — 8th (+8)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • A ton of members of either team are familiar with the other organization. Current Colts who are former Seahawks are running backs Robert Turbin and Christine Michael, wide receivers K.J. Brent and Kasen Williams, offensive linemen J’Marcus Webb, Mark Glowinski and Nick Callender, defensive lineman Al Woods, linebacker Tyrell Adams, cornerback Pierre Desir and safety Ronald Martin, defensive line coach Mike Phair and assistant general manager Ed Dodds. On the flip side, current Seahawks who are former Colts are wide receivers Cyril Grayson and Marvin Bracy, defensive lineman Tom Johnson, linebacker Barkevious Mingo, cornerback Neiko Thorpe and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. That’s a lot of familiarity on both sides.
  • Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Colts head coach Frank Reich said he'd like to get all four quarterbacks into this game — Luck (and the other starters) to start about a quarter, Brissett to finish the first half and then Phillip Walker and Brad Kaaya split the second half.
  • Luck on what gameday will be like for him: “It will be long (laughs). They are always long, especially when you are on the west coast and the game is 7 p.m. local. So those can be pretty long days, but I’ll manage to find something to do. I am sure we will have meetings, I am sure I’ll have stuff to do. I will be excited, I know I will. I am sure I will be very nervous as well.”
  • Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on the excitement level approaching this game: “It’s always nice not to get into it with your teammates and to compete against somebody else. Especially a team like Seattle, who has been consistently good for so long. It will be a good test for us just to go out there and run our offense versus a different style defense and to just go out there and compete against one of the NFL’s better teams.”
  • Sirianni on the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field in Seattle: “That is a cool place. I think that’s a good place for our rookies to start. ‘Man, this does feel a little bit like Clemson,’ the atmosphere there. That’s a good place to start so they understand the NFL is loud and fans are in your face. It will be good. Even in preseason in Seattle that’s usually how it is.”

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